A THIRD of close contacts of people with coronavirus are still not being reached by the test and trace system in Dorset, it has emerged.

NHS Providers said the test and trace system has a long way to go to be effective, as it continues to struggle to reach much more than 60 per cent of the close contacts of people who test positive for the virus nationally.

Data from the Department for Health and Social care shows 1,668 people who tested positive for Covid-19 in Dorset were transferred to the Test and Trace service between May 28 and November 4.

That means 388 new cases were transferred in the latest seven-day period – the largest increase since the regime began.

Contact tracers ask new patients to give details for anyone they were in close contact with in the 48 hours before their symptoms started.

This led to 4,837 close contacts being identified over the period – those not managed by local health protection teams, which are dealt with through a call centre or online.

But just 67 per cent of those were reached, meaning 1,595 people were not contacted or did not respond.

That meant there was no increase on the 67 per cent reached in the period to October 28. It was also the highest proportion in the South West, where 62.7 per cent of contacts were reached on average.

Across England, 59 per cent of contacts not managed by local health protection teams were reached and told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace in the latest week to November 4.

Local health protection teams deal with cases linked to settings such as hospitals, schools and prisons.

The contact tracing rate including these cases was 60.4% – up slightly from the week before when a record low 59.9% was reported. That figure has since been amended to 60.2 per cent.

Around 142,000 new cases were transferred nationally in the week to November 4, the highest weekly number since NHS Test and Trace was launched.

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents trust leaders, said: "The number of people who tested positive for COVID this week has increased by eight per cent.

"Despite this, it is worrying to see fewer close contacts identified than the previous week, and with over 124,000 not reached this week it highlights how far the system has to go to be effective.

"We remain hopeful that the number of people testing positive for COVID will reduce as national lockdown continues, however are realistic that winter is going to be extremely challenging, particularly without a world class testing and contact tracing system."